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The Perfectionist Trap

15 Sep

The Perfectionist Trap

Posted By: 
Kaitlyn Guay

She looked at the page in disgust. Words tripped clumsily over the page, as blunt and coarse as a washerwoman’s hands. Her eyes fell upon the hardcover copy of her favorite book, displayed with reverence in the uppermost corner of her desk. In that moment, she decided she could never be or create something as magical as the novels she held so dear. Defeated, she balled the first draft in her angry fist, and dropped it along with her dream of becoming a writer in the wastebasket as she left, nevermore to return.

Sadly, this anecdote is all too common. In a world of standardized testing and flashy media coverage, our society is conditioned to believe that there is a right answer and a right way to do everything. The concept of failure is rarely discussed. This spotlight on product over process naturally cultivates the phenomenon more classically known as perfectionism.

Unfortunately, perfectionism is a trap. It is an illusion created by holding others up on a pedestal without considering that they may have undergone the exact same struggles we are so familiar with. This is not our fault. We are a society blessed with the instant knowledge and connectivity of the media, and yet, the nightly news does not report that Simon Salamander of Ripley Way just completed another disappointing prototype in his quest to build a breakdancing robot.

“Our perspective is imbalanced, because we know our own struggles so well from the inside, and yet are exposed to apparently pain-free narratives of achievement on the outside. We cannot forgive ourselves the horrors of our early drafts, largely because we have not seen the early drafts of those we admire.”

So how can one sidestep the trap of perfection without dampening the fire to create something tremendous?

The answer, as discussed in this video by @TheSchoolofLife, is fascinating.


Perhaps the trap of perfectionism doesn’t lie within the compulsion to perfect one’s craft, but in the ideal that failure isn’t a crucial and incredibly valuable component to creation. Perhaps if the stigma of failure being bad is corrected, if we view failure as feedback instead of as a sign of our insufficiency, then students will be more willing to experiment and create fantastical things that add immense value to our world.

“We need to recognize the legitimate and necessary role of failure.”

What might you attempt, if you weren’t afraid to fail?